Dr. Byanjana Sharma
I think we are all familiar with the teacher-centred teaching style that is still widely used in the Nepali education system. It is an authoritative teaching style where teachers transmit knowledge to students who act as passive listeners. What generally comes to mind when one says “learner-centred teaching style”? Obviously, learners are the focal point in learner-centred classrooms. So, they must be actively engaged in the teaching-learning activities, right? While students are active, all the teaching content and activities are under the control of teachers in such classrooms.
As long as the curriculum is controlled by teachers, how can the lessons be learner-centred even if students participate in teaching learning activities? They simply become recipients of teachers’ knowledge and wisdom. Research suggests that teacher-centred learning actually prevents students’ educational growth.
In contrast to the teacher-centred teaching style, the learner-centred teaching style encourages learners themselves to take charge of their learning; which is why it is better to say learner-centred learning style rather than labeling it a teaching style. Learner-centred lessons are focused on how students learn instead of how teachers teach. The learner-centred approach reflects and is rooted in constructivist philosophy of teaching. Literature says that constructivism is based on learning by doing and creating own knowledge rather than depending on teachers for this.
An example of learner-centred methodology would be Montessori Method, according to which teachers are supposed to provide children with appropriate environment and children choose what to learn, when to learn and how to learn. On the basis of teachers’ deep observation of students’ interests and learning pace curriculum will be developed; it is more individual-based rather than being one-size-fits-all kind of curriculum. In this way, learner-centred method is all about self-learning and exploratory learning. If this sort of learning is instilled since the very beginning, students can become life-long independent learners.
Based on these indicators, can we say that Nepali education system is learner-based? Until now, it can be seen as being very examination oriented. Even in primary level students are encouraged to study set and same content so that they can answer the examination questions in an excellent manner. Students’ individual learning needs are not addressed in almost all of the cases.
Yes, if some teachers use activities that clearly encourage students to take part in the learning process actively, such as group work, pair work or different types of games, their lessons seem to be learner-centred at the surface level but in fact they are not. It is because the teachers take a lead role to decide what to teach and how to teach.
If we really want our children to be independent and inquisitive learners they must be provided with opportunities where they can learn from their experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, talents, interests, capacities, and needs. As literature suggests, moving from teacher-centered to learner-centred teaching style, five areas should be considered for change. They are the choice of content, teacher’s role, responsibility for learning, process of assessment, and power relationship between teacher and learners. Learners must have ownership of their own learning, contribute to the design of curriculum, and the responsibility for some levels for instruction too. Then only can we claim of practicing learner-centred teaching.